With overnight rains turning the course at Joe Creason Park into an even muddier mess than it was on Friday, getting off to a slow start could be dangerous for podium hopefuls. Challenging descents and slick off-cambers can be very unforgiving to those trying to press every corner to make up time.
In the Junior Men 15-16 race on Saturday, at least one rider showed maturity beyond his years in patiently working to the front after getting off to a less-than-ideal start.
Dylan Zakrajsek (Lake Geneva Youth Cycling) took the holeshot while the other riders lined up behind him. Off the line, Ivan Gallego (MBW Racing) was not where he wanted to be. However, he quickly recovered and moved forward toward the front.
"I had a bad start but on the first lap," he said. "I came back and found myself at the front and rolled with it."
Midway through the first lap, Ryan Campbell (Avout Racing) and Kyle Johnson led the way at the stairs while several other riders chased behind them.
Once through the chicanes, Gallego continued to move forward. He pulled off the front at the last climb up to Pit 2 and charged up the run-up with an advantage on the lead chasers Campbell and Max Palmer (Midwest Devo).
Gallego's lead after one lap was 11 seconds.
"I found a bunch of open windows and I’m super lucky, actually," Gallego said about the lap-long charge to the front.
In the second lap, Gallego extended his lead to almost 30 seconds. Palmer and Campbell powered down the finishing straight with Zakrajsek a few seconds behind. Gallego was hoping to hold his lead while the chasers sorted out their affairs and maybe took advantage of a window of their own to catch the leader.
The last lap, Gallego stayed upright and clean to take home the Junior 15-16 national championship.
"It’s the motivation and the determination to win that keeps me motivated to train every day and get out and ride," he said. "I put a lot of time and effort into it. I’m really happy that I managed to win."
Dylan Zakrajsek scooted his way to a second place. Junior Men 15-16. 2018 Cyclocross National Championships, Louisville, KY. © A. Yee / Cyclocross MagazinePalmer rounded out the podium in third.
For more from the race, see the winner interviews, photo gallery and results below.
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Ivan Gallego: Winner Interview